Once upon a time, I was a tired third year law student who spent most of my time languishing in ivory towers. My worst class was with a racist, sexist, ableist professor who looked down her nose at everyone beneath her (which, she felt, was everyone). I complained a ton about her to my friends over board games and pizza.
One day, after a particularly grueling late night, I sent my most patient friend a text: “I wish I were superlatively special to someone.” It was a text borne of irritation that people with children and partners were allowed more latitude to go home and be with their loved ones while single people “had nothing better to do” than work anyway (I tell you, this professor was a nightmare). It came from the loneliness each single person faces at some point in their life when they look at the endless Facebook posts and sugar-sweet hand holding and think: “Why doesn’t someone want me like that?”
He responded saying I was special to him. But I argued it didn’t count as “superlative” unless you were literally willing to drop everything for the other person. We went back and forth for a bit because we were nerds in law school.
And then, he sent me this:
So, I heard a fictional character describe another as “the first thing l think of in the morning and the last in the eve,” and obviously it’s hyperbolic for there to be a single consistent answer but for once my answer isn’t the abstract concept of cats. You are the easiest and most rewarding person on Earth to talk to, and an inspiration to do both good and well. If l and everyone l know forgot each other, there is no one whose loss would cost me as much enjoyment as you. I’m way out of my element right now and please don’t share that, but l believe it was several superlatives.
Despite the fact I had to spend that entire day with Professor Wicked, I had a smile on my face I couldn’t shake. It was the nicest text anyone had ever sent me. And I told him that.
He then spent the week making sure I woke up every morning to a heartwarming text, just to make me feel better about school. The next Thursday the two of us went for a long, breezy walk near Georgetown. I told him I loved him. He said it back. Our romance seemed to spring out of nowhere, even though our friends had been shipping us for a long time. It felt as surprising as The Text.
And a week later, we started dating.
The truth is there is always something magic about perfectly chosen words. All of us can quote incredible lines from literature or TV shows, sentences that make us swoon. It’s never just “I love you.” It’s all “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” or “I don’t want sunbursts and marble halls; I just want you” or “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
If you want to write a text like my friend did— the type of text that sets hearts aflame — here are the secrets to do it. The goal is to make the recipient feel, well, superlatively special.
1. Be quirky.
You are…an inspiration to do both good and well.
The first tip is also the easiest. Be as you as possible. Make it 100% obvious to the recipient that no one else could have strung those words together.
The text my friend sent me is the epitome of that. See the phrasing “inspiration to do both good and well.” Using adverbs and adjectives perfectly was something he and I used to discuss at length. Or that first sentence. The fictional character he quoted was from Galavant, a niche musical fairy-tale parody. The sentence used the word “hyperbolic” and the phrase “the abstract concept of cats.” It doesn’t get quirkier.
Whether you write with unusual phrases, lump together seven emojis, or ramble, just be you! If you’re used to sending long texts to someone, they probably already like who you are. And what makes these texts flattering is that they’re genuine.
2. Be honest.
Obviously it’s hyperbolic for there to be a single consistent answer but for once my answer isn’t the abstract concept of cats.
The second essential element of a good romantic text is honesty. People can see through fakeness faster than a Ducati on the German autobahn. My friend could have told me I’m his first and last thought every day, but I wouldn’t have believed it. Why? Because it’s hyperbolic. So when he followed that imperfect admission with the fact I was the easiest and most rewarding person to talk to, I believed him. And that’s one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received.
Remember that a sincere compliment is much more powerful than an extreme one. Don’t tell people they’re the most beautiful person in the world if you don’t mean it. If you must be extreme, do what my friend did and find something extreme that is true. Do they have the most beautiful eyes? The most contagious laugh? The best puns? Say so.
And if there are no superlatives, try something else. Sometimes the smallest phrases are the ones that catch us in the heart. “When you smile, I feel like everything is right in the world for a second,” for example. Or “I love the flutter in my chest when you passionately talk about macrame.” Quirky. Honest.
3. Be vulnerable.
I’m way out of my element right now and please don’t share that, but I believe it was several superlatives.
The third and most important element of a good message is vulnerability. After all, falling in love is just a delicate dance of trading pieces of your hearts. If you let them know they can see inside you, they will naturally feel like they’re one of the special few who gets to peer into the depths of your soul. So show a little metaphorical skin.
My friend was a pretty unemotional and reserved person who rarely felt strong emotions or felt shy. He sincerely complimented people in creative ways (that part I was used to), but he never let people in. The fact that this was something he was sharing with only me and clearly something outside his comfort zone made me feel that much more unique.
In the year that followed, my friend became my boyfriend, though we never used the word, and he sent me a good morning text every single day: always heartfelt and sincere, vulnerable and quirky. It was one of the highlights of my life. And I know you’re probably wondering if we’re still together or if any of that magic lasted.
I will answer that, but first let me tell you why it doesn’t matter.
There are people who have sent me texts like this before, texts that made me feel warm and fuzzy and amazing, even if not in a romantic context. I’m sure you’ve received many messages like this too. They’re the texts that make you feel “Wow, I belong to this group of awesome people” or “Wow, I have an amazing boss; I’m so glad I do good work for her.”
And they all make you feel special and loved, even if only for a fleeting moment. Even if the clocks turn to another day and the moment careens off the cliffs of reality.
Look, some of the best texts and emails I’ve ever received came from people who are still my best friends. But some came from people I no longer think of, let alone speak to. Life happens. People break up and fall apart.
So send heartfelt texts as frequently as possible, as frequently as they are true. I still never regret the words I’ve sent that have been passionate and raw, telling people how much I care about them. I hope they don’t regret the love they once had for me.
As for my friend who sent The Text?
He tells me it’s not true anymore. It’s no longer hyperbolic for there to be a single consistent answer because I’m always his first and last thought of the day.
Maybe it’s because we’re married now.